DIY Old Bookshelf Facelift

Having just sat through an hour and a half long class with no air conditioning and a blistering 100 degree, high humidity heat, I can really appreciate the perks of the colder months. Yes, I’ll probably be complaining about nose-cicles once winter finally does come around, but right now I’m seriously craving the relaxing ease a good book and a blanket will bring.

And what better way to display those books than on a beautiful bookshelf? Though it’s a simple piece of furniture, a good bookshelf is a writer’s secret pleasure. Bookshelves are built to hold what we writers hold most dear, and we often take great pride in owning one of these structures.

(And they’re just so pretty to look at. Ask us why we drool over libraries…)

All images from Buzzfeed’s “49 Breathtaking Libraries From All Over the World”

Unfortunately, bookshelves of this magnitude tend to be a little (a lot) out of the typical writer’s budget. Fortunately, I have a solution!

DIY Old Bookshelf Facelift!

I recently collaborated with my dad on a little summer project — something to contain my growing collection of books — and I thought what better project to share with my readers than this? (However, I apologize for no pictures of the process. I didn’t realize I was going to be blogging about it!) So here it goes:

Bookcase Before

Bookcase After

Step 1: Buy the bookcases.

I found mine (I bought two) in the warehouse of a company that was getting rid of some old office furniture. They were a nice solid wood and had very few scratches or chips, which are very important to avoid if you’re not looking to do a complete refinish of the surface. They were a steal at $25 a piece. If you’re lost for places to look, I suggest thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets.

Step 2: Pick a Primer and Paint

I’m not going to pretend like I’m an expert on painting and wood, so that’s why I’m just going to tell you to do the exact same thing I did: ask someone else. I went to my paint store prepared with a picture of my bookshelves so that the clerk would know exactly what I was working on. I even took a shelf off the bookcase and brought it in for him to look at. Once he gave me his recommendations, I ended up purchasing one quart of Multi-Purpose Interior/Exterior Latex Primer for about $11 and four quarts of Interior/Exterior Acrylic Latex Paint with a satin finish in 7566 Westhighland White for $6 each. (Note: Had we known in the beginning that these shelves would require that much paint, we probably would have went ahead and bought a gallon, which would have been cheaper in the long run. Note for the future!) Also, we had paint rollers and brushes already stashed around the house, so buying extra wasn’t necessary; however, if you need those supplies, be sure to add that into the overall cost.

Step 3: Paint it. Duh.

The first thing to do is to wipe down your surface. We had these stored in the garage for a while, so they needed to be wiped off almost every day. Trust me, you don’t want a dried up bug painted into your bookshelf. After that, you can begin priming. Cut in the corners and edges of the bookshelf with a brush first. This will make it easier on you when you start rolling. After that, roll. Make sure you get a nice even coat over the surface or else you will see un-primed spots beneath your paint later on.

Once you’ve primed and let your bookshelf sit for at least a day, it’s time to paint. Using a clean roller and brush, follow the same cut-in-then-roll procedure you followed for priming. This may take several days and several coats. We ended up doing about three coats on the shelves and two coats on the outer frame of the bookcase itself. Be patient. You may end up spending more time painting than you had first planned, but you will ultimately be happier with your final result.

Step 4: Seal (optional)

This step is entirely up to you. I decided that I wanted to go over my bookcase one more time with a sealant in order to protect the surface when I slide books in and out of it. For sealing, we found that a foam  brush like this (can also be found at a craft store for very cheap, close to a dollar) did the best job (though it takes a little longer than a roller). Simply use the foam brush as you would a regular paintbrush, and smooth the seal over all surfaces of your bookcase, careful not to make any bubbles. We used one quart of Minwax Water Based Polycrylic Finish in a clear semi-gloss, which cost us about $12.

Step 5: Decorate!

I had a little fun with this part. As you can see, I’ve got a few knickknacks spread out among the many books I’ve collected since childhood. I didn’t use all of my trinkets, but I tried to use ones I thought would look the most aesthetically pleasing together. Feel free to rearrange as many times as you feel necessary. I went through a few configurations before I was really happy with the end result.

Tray KnickKnack

Other Bookcase

Bird KnickKnack

And there you have it. All in all, this project took us a good month to complete. Although we didn’t work on it every day, it took a lot more time than I originally expected. But now I have two beautiful bookcases that I’m very proud of and I learned a little bit about furniture renovation along the way. If you’ve been keeping track of the numbers as you’ve been reading, you’ll know already that this project cost us just under $100, which is around half of what I would have spent for one lower-quality wood bookcase. We all know you’re procrastinating writing anyway, so you might as well get painting!

If you have any writer-related DIY projects (or any DIY projects) that you’d like to share, post about it in the comments below.

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Back To School

Back To School

How to Handle the Unexpected and Job Quest #2

When it comes to routines, I’m a bit of an expert. In fact, if I were to be the best at anything, I would be the best at routines. I love the monotony, the ease, and the utter predictability of an orderly and unsurprising day.

But how often does a day work out that perfectly?

Not often. Life (AKA an absurd amount of work) happened this week and I was forced to cope with one of its many unexpected challenges.

Unexpected Food VI.2: Spaghetti on a tube

Though not quite as unexpected as spaghetti in a tube…

I had a plan for what I was going to write for my Friday post. My topic (which I will hopefully get to write about very soon) was one I hadn’t written about in a while and I was excited to get started. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish the project in enough time to start writing about it, and I hadn’t taken pictures or obtained the necessary materials for fact checking.

So what do you do when the only blog idea you had been planning for that week ends up falling apart?

Freak out. Maybe shed a few tears. Then check the running list of topics you have been steadily adding to since you began your blog and pick one to write about.

Don’t have a list? Make one. Don’t like your ideas? Write about how you were prevented from writing about what you wanted to write about. And if you’re absolutely and completely desperate, read my Top 5 Tips to Combat Writer’s Block. It probably won’t help.

On an unrelated and yet forcibly related note (because I had nothing else planned), I took another stab at applying for a writing job this past Sunday. This job sounded perfect because it’s located near my college campus, is paid, and has flexible student-friendly hours. Excellent.

It seemed straight-forward enough: In addition to light office work, my job would be to write newsletters and feature stories about businesses or people who had made donations to the school. Not exactly what I want to be doing for the rest of my life, but it’s finally a real writing job and would look good on my resume. In my effort to impress my future employer, I wrote what is perhaps the most professional cover letter I have ever written. I spruced up my writing sample (thanks to emperort for the edits!) and my existing resume and sent it off Sunday night in the hopes that it would be the first thing my new boss would see that day.

And it was. But rather than getting the quick, positive response I was hoping for, I received a fast, soul-crushing rejection. In no way objected to me (I don’t even know if she read my application), the woman whom I thought was to be my job savior wrote back and let me know that the position was already in the process of being filled, but that they would keep my application on file for future reference.

Once again, my job dreams have been swept out from under me. Time to mourn.

Who said being a writer was easy?

Quote #9

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” — Mark Twain, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

P90X Results: How I Failed and Succeeded at Bringing It with Confidence

Last night I enjoyed a delicious plate of fettuccini alfredo, the after-effects of which were not nearly as satisfying as the initial taste, nor did their food-baby inducing ways contribute in any form to the desired skinny feeling often associated with completing a workout program.

And I have completed a workout program. I finally completed P90X.

And for some reason I’ve decided to reward myself with an all-out feast of the foods I so desperately tried to avoid during the last ninety days.

Remember him?

Remember him?

“What? Lee, I thought you had committed yourself to a new lifestyle, to living healthy and making the right dietary choices? What about Tony Horton? What about Bringing It?” says the Collective Voice of my Readers.

Don’t worry, guys. I did bring it. I pushed play every day for ninety days – no missed days – and I sweat until I was satisfied that the sweet stench of victory would be forever absorbed into my clothes. And yet despite all my hard work, when this past Monday came and I was due to take my final pictures and measurements, I was still greatly disappointed.

I didn’t lose any weight.

In fact, I’d gained two pounds. My measurements neither increased nor decreased, and, for the most part, I felt as though I looked relatively the same as when I started – rather disappointing after ninety consecutive days of determination.

And what made me struggle even more with these results was that I was so excited to share my Before and After success story with you all. I wanted to be one of those people I had seen so many times on Youtube, sharing their amazing, drastic results. I wanted visible proof of my commitment and effort. And I didn’t get it. I was so sure I wanted to show my results pictures with you, but after seeing those numbers, I felt embarrassed and needed to rethink my decision. And after taking the whole of the week to think about it, I’ve come to a conclusion.

The pictures don’t matter.

It doesn’t matter that I didn’t lose any weight or that my body didn’t transform dramatically after that short amount of time. Because what I saw in those pictures was a slight physical change, a change brought about by the determination and sheer will to stick with my goal, no matter how difficult or worthless I might have felt it was going to be. I didn’t quit. I held on. I completed something I set out to do. And that’s enough for me.

I can’t expect miracles to happen in three months. The fact that I, an extremely lazy person who has struggled with exercise and weight her whole life, was able to push through the pain and workout for that long consecutively seems like a miracle to me. So I want to keep exercising, not because it will necessarily help me lose weight, but because it makes me feel so accomplished afterward. I love how it makes me feel. It’s healthy for my body and my mind. Better eating habits will follow (because eating too much pasta does not make you feel good).

Maybe this wasn’t the inspirational post I had first envisioned writing, but I do feel that it’s still important. Do not give up. You will see results. Though it may take longer than you had hoped, you will see them. And just because you don’t notice much of a physical change doesn’t mean you haven’t changed at all (just maybe not in the way you first expected).

If I'd been smart enough to take these in front of a white wall...

If I’d been smart enough to take these in front of a white wall…

this crappy editing wouldn't have been necessary. I apologize for the crappy quality of these pictures.

this crappy editing wouldn’t have been necessary. I apologize for the crappy quality of these pictures.

(I decided to show one partial Before and After picture, only because I feel that it’s important to show what an exercise program like P90X can do, even if I didn’t get all the physical changes I wanted. I plan on continuing on with other programs and exercises, and I hope to write about those as well in the future. If you enjoy reading about that kind of stuff, be sure to follow along.)

Drive Safely, My Friends

Drive Safely, My Friends

The Power of Introverts: The TED Talk

“To see the bias clearly, you need to understand what introversion is. It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgement. Introversion is more about how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation.”

Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” (a book I am extremely excited to read), speaks in this TED Talk about the bias our country and culture has toward extroversion and the lack of respect it shows toward its introverted citizens. Cain seeks to inform people of the true definitions of these terms and to break down those prejudices our culture tries to build up. She calls for a restructuring of our school systems and work places, as she believes that, while collaboration is necessary and good, there is far too much emphasis on the group-thinker and not enough on the solitary soul. She hopes to give more credit to our past introverted leaders (and as she demonstrates, there are plenty of them) and to open up the previously closed-off minds of today’s introverts to sharing their ideas. After all, “there’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” And she believes that, with this talk, she can expose both extroverts and introverts to the power that is solitude.

As an introvert myself, I very much appreciated this talk and was very moved by her determination to put equal emphasis and importance on introverts and their ideas. Too many people think they have to be a certain way to succeed or have purpose in this world, and Susan Cain wants to destroy that train of thought. I think she’s brilliant. Give her a listen, everyone. It took her seven years to write this book. She knows her stuff.